A month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made big waves with a series of decisions that will affect the ability of ordinary Nevadans to defend themselves from corporate abuses by bringing Las Vegas prescription lawsuits against manufacturers of defective or harmful medications and taking other civil court actions. These decisions were only briefly analyzed as the nation’s attention quickly turned to the ongoing fight over the federal debt and whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling without making major, long-term changes to our fiscal programs.
The first case was a complicated, technical decision in the suit of PLIVA v. Mensing. At issue was the conflict between state and federal statutes with regard to generic pharmaceuticals. One one side were drug manufacturers (the defendants), and on the other side were plaintiffs comparable to those victims of Nevada defective medication injuries. The question for the justices to decide was this: Do federal regulations controlling warning labels preempt state laws requiring manufacturers to warn consumers about possible harms from using their products? The defendants argued that they cannot comply with federal regulations (which require manufacturers of generic drugs to place copycat warning labels on their prescription drugs that parallel the warnings on the original brand-name medicine) while also complying with state statutes that require them to update warning labels to inform consumers of newly discovered risks or possible Nevada defective product harm.
In yet another 5-4 decision, the justices ruled in favor of the defendants and overturned two Circuit Court decisions by agreeing that federal regulations trump state laws in this regard. Critics argue that this decision permits the absurd result that a generic-drug maker needn’t issue any further warnings once its product receives Food and Drug Administration approval even if new threats arise; those happy with the decision claim that needless confusion and costly over-regulation has been avoided. Putting this decision in context with other cases, it remains a matter of opinion whether PLIVA stands as a contradiction to similar decisions reached in recent years or if it draws an important distinction between the generic products and original or patent-protected goods.
Another important case that received a greater level of attention was Wal-Mart Stores, Inc v. Dukes. In this case, the Court held that approximately one million female employees of the mega-retailer Wal-Mart did not qualify to bring a united class-action lawsuit against their former employer. We have all seen television commercials and other media featuring class-action suits, but the concept deserves some explanation. As its name suggests, a class-action suit is a lawsuit (a civil action) brought on behalf of a large group of similarly situated individuals (a class). Common examples include defective drugs or unsafe medical devices as discussed above, but class-actions have also been brought against automobile manufacturers for injuries caused by Nevada automobile recalls and against other large entities whose products or actions have negatively impacted many people.
In this case, the Court decided that the women who claimed to have been discriminated against in hiring and pay practices by the nation’s largest private employer were not similar enough to bring a nationwide class-action suit. To qualify for such an action, the group must be demonstrably similar in its complaint enough to warrant consolidating all the cases into a single action with a single, shared result. After the Court’s decision, it is still possible that many of these women will be able to bring similar lawsuits against Wal-Mart at a state, regional, or store-based level.
If you or a loved one have been harmed by the irresponsible actions of a large company or a defective product, our experienced Nevada defective product lawyers are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation and information about how your case may be consolidated with civil actions taken by others.
Share and Enjoy